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Why Raila is at a rare political nadir

Saturday February 12 2011



On February 28 last year, I wrote here thus:

“The events of the last two weeks in which the Prime Minister has been at loggerheads with Agriculture minister William Ruto tell me both Raila and Ruto are in search of allies. Both Raila and Ruto have reached a point of no return; they will fight each other to the ground.”

Almost a year later, Ruto has ripped apart the alliance the PM painstakingly built in the lead-up to the last General Election which made the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) a steamrolling electoral machine.

He has not only snatched away the Kalenjin bloc that guaranteed ODM the rich Rift Valley vote, but has also mended fences with the Mt Kenya leadership whose Party of National Unity (PNU) remains the main opposition to ODM.

This mending of fences has taken Ruto into the good books of President Kibaki whose every word or gesture of support carries enviable political weight and is significant in shaping his succession. Ruto is not a PNU-allied silent sleeper but an active insider schemer.

For example, before President Kibaki went into Monday’s meeting with Raila to discuss the now infamous judicial and treasury nominations at Harambee House, PNU ministers went into conference with Ruto, Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei and former Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey.


The President also met Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka before Raila. President Kibaki has recently used Musyoka to outflank Raila in PNU’s diplomatic offensive to pressure the UN Security Council to defer the cases preferred against six Kenyans by the International Criminal Court.

The VP, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto are political allies who, if they convinced their respective communities to vote as a bloc, would put out of action many who aspire to the presidency. Right now the three have Raila in the crosshairs.

Preceded by meetings between the President and PNU stalwarts and between Ruto & Co and the stalwarts, the conference between the President and the PM was doomed to fail because the President’s corner is confident of a win in a showdown against Raila in Parliament. They want it yesterday.

Critical support

PNU’s confidence has been buoyed by the fact that ODM has not only lost critical support, but also because the slow and orchestrated step-by-step, week-after-week exits from the Raila camp portray ODM as a house on fire and the PM as the one who torched it.

The PM, as I say, has lost the propaganda war to Ruto and that could turn deadly for his political ambitions. In the political arena what is repeated often, even if it is a lie, begins to stick unless it is shown to be false. Some untruths about Raila are beginning to stick.

It is not for nothing that in the heated debate two weeks ago about whether or not the President consulted the PM before making the controversial nominations, the VP said in and out of Parliament that the matter boiled down to who between the President and the PM was telling the truth.

The VP, who says the President cannot be questioned and believes Raila demeans his role in the coalition government, cannot have been vouching for the PM.

And, notice that Trade minister Amos Kimunya, a nemesis of the PM’s, said last weekend that the President has not told a lie in his long political career.
Politics, as I say, is not about the truth; it is about power.

The man standing between Ruto, Uhuru and Musyoka in their quest for power is Raila and the three will sleep soundly if, by their combined propaganda strength, they can paralyse the PM before 2012.

Is Raila sitting on his hands? Yes. The vigour so much in evidence in the 2002 and 2007 elections and the 2005 and 2010 referenda are absent. That is unlike the man who, unusually, has not taken campaigns against his opponents to the country.

Plan B

Raila’s supporters argue that he always has a plan B for every political contest. That does not appear to be the case unless all is under wraps until an opportune moment.

But Raila will be aware that covering lost ground could itself prove a formidable enemy.

Is Raila finished? Not yet. You can’t count out Raila until he is out for the count. He is, however, at a rare political nadir and vulnerability. That is why Ruto and PNU are moving in for the kill, with Parliament their preferred killing field.

Why did things fall apart this quickly for Raila? I will tell you.

Kwendo Opanga is a media consultant [email protected]